s skippy the bush kangaroo

skippy the bush kangaroo

Saturday, September 25, 2004

but isn't not having a plan kind of a plan in itself?

reader tony of silver city, new mexico, sends us a link to this harper's article by naomi klein (author of no logo) discussing awol's post-war plan in iraq: greed.

the honey theory of iraqi reconstruction stems from the most cherished belief of the war’s ideological architects: that greed is good. not good just for them and their friends but good for humanity, and certainly good for iraqis. greed creates profit, which creates growth, which creates jobs and products and services and everything else anyone could possibly need or want. the role of good government, then, is to create the optimal conditions for corporations to pursue their bottomless greed, so that they in turn can meet the needs of the society. the problem is that governments, even neoconservative governments, rarely get the chance to prove their sacred theory right: despite their enormous ideological advances, even george bush’s republicans are, in their own minds, perennially sabotaged by meddling democrats, intractable unions, and alarmist environmentalists.

iraq was going to change all that. in one place on earth, the theory would finally be put into practice in its most perfect and uncompromised form. a country of 25 million would not be rebuilt as it was before the war; it would be erased, disappeared. in its place would spring forth a gleaming showroom for laissez-faire economics, a utopia such as the world had never seen. every policy that liberates multinational corporations to pursue their quest for profit would be put into place: a shrunken state, a flexible workforce, open borders, minimal taxes, no tariffs, no ownership restrictions. the people of iraq would, of course, have to endure some short-term pain: assets, previously owned by the state, would have to be given up to create new opportunities for growth and investment. jobs would have to be lost and, as foreign products flooded across the border, local businesses and family farms would, unfortunately, be unable to compete. but to the authors of this plan, these would be small prices to pay for the economic boom that would surely explode once the proper conditions were in place, a boom so powerful the country would practically rebuild itself.

the fact that the boom never came and iraq continues to tremble under explosions of a very different sort should never be blamed on the absence of a plan. rather, the blame rests with the plan itself, and the extraordinarily violent ideology upon which it is based.
the plan, it seems, was to turn iraq into a libertarian's dream: no restraints on the system of unregulated capitalism, and let the laws of economic nature take over:

in september, to entice foreign investors to come to iraq, [paul bremer] enacted a radical set of laws unprecedented in their generosity to multinational corporations. there was order 37, which lowered iraq’s corporate tax rate from roughly 40 percent to a flat 15 percent. there was order 39, which allowed foreign companies to own 100 percent of iraqi assets outside of the natural-resource sector. even better, investors could take 100 percent of the profits they made in iraq out of the country; they would not be required to reinvest and they would not be taxed. under order 39, they could sign leases and contracts that would last for forty years. order 40 welcomed foreign banks to iraq under the same favorable terms. all that remained of saddam hussein’s economic policies was a law restricting trade unions and collective bargaining…

at first, the shock-therapy theory seemed to hold: iraqis, reeling from violence both military and economic, were far too busy staying alive to mount a political response to bremer’s campaign. worrying about the privatization of the sewage system was an unimaginable luxury with half the population lacking access to clean drinking water; the debate over the flat tax would have to wait until the lights were back on. even in the international press, bremer’s new laws, though radical, were easily upupstaged by more dramatic news of political chaos and rising crime.
it's a fascinating read.
posted by skippy at 3:55 PM |


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